John Elmendorf, 63, a retired college president and a consultant with the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, died of arteroisclerosis Sunday at his residence in Washington.

Dr. Elemendorf, who maintained his permanent home in Sarasota, Fla, had been associated with the AED since 1975 and had carried out several projects in this coutry and abroad.

From 1965 until 1973, he was president of New College, now part of the University of South Florida.

Dr. Elmendorf was born in Orange, N.J., and grew up in New Haven, Conn. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and then taught in Arkansas and Vermont. After World War II service in the Army in Europe and a period working in the Paris office of the American Friends Service Committee, he returned to North Carolina and earned a doctorate in linguistics.

In 1950s, he was in Mexico as director of the Mexican-American Cultural Institute and then as dean of the faculty of the University of the Americas. He was vice president of Brown University in Providence, R. I., before moving to Sarasota to head the New College.

Dr. Elmendorf's survivors include his wife, the former Mary Lindsay, of Sarasota; a daughter, Susan Roberts, of Hudson, Wis.; a son, Lindsay, of Washington, and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Friends Service Committee.